The first snowfalls of the season have blanketed Chicago, and we all know what that means – cold and flu season is well under way. It can be tough to avoid getting the sniffles or contracting the full-fledged flu in the winter, which can especially be a drag during the holiday season. 

However, a few local experts are sharing a few ways we can all eat healthy to stay healthy this winter, and hopefully avoid getting sick for all of the holiday parties and get-togethers. 

Rather than taking supplements to stay healthy, many doctors recommend getting your nutrients and vitamins by eating healthy. 

“It’s always a great idea to fill your plate with fruit and vegetables,” said Sara Haas, a dietician, chef and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The deeply colored ones are rich in antioxidants which can play a powerful role in fighting off infection.” 

“Fruits and vegetables also contain a myriad of vitamins and minerals which all work synergistically to keep your body functioning at its best. I would advise getting a variety of these richly colored foods, so that you get an array of these nutrients,” Haas said.

Red and green peppers are rich in Vitamin C. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Red and green peppers are rich in Vitamin C. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Vegetables

“I would recommend to get your vitamin C from healthy food – one way or another, we all need to eat!” said Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite of Rush University Medical Center. Five vegetables rich in vitamin C are: 

1.    Red peppers (serving size 1/2 up chopped raw) 

2.    Kale (serving size 1 cup) 

3.    Green peppers (serving size ½ cup chopped raw)

4.    Broccoli (serving size ½ cup cooked)

5.    Brussel sprouts (serving size ½ cup cooked)

Citrus fruit such as  oranges and grapefruit are a good source of vitamin C. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Citrus fruit such as oranges and grapefruit are a good source of vitamin C. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Fruits

“Oranges and 100% orange juice are both great sources of vitamin C, which may not prevent a cold, but may help decrease the cold’s duration,” said Haas. Some other fruits rich in the vitamin are: 

1. Grapefruit

2. Strawberries

3. Kiwi

4. Guava

Another vitamin doctors recommend plenty of in the winter is vitamin D, an immune regulator we usually get from sunlight exposure to the skin.  

“If one does not plan to bathe in the tropical sun during the winter season, consider incorporating in your diet the following foods that naturally vitamin D, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids,” Dr. Kazlauskaite said. She recommends eggs, mushrooms and fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna and sardines. 

Zinc

Haas also recommends plenty of zinc, a mineral that supports immune function. Some foods that contain zinc are oysters, beef and fortified cereals. 

Immunity-boosting foods

Beyond fruits and vegetables, Haas recommends oats, which contain beta-glucan, and may help boost immunity. She also recommends garlic, which contains allicin, a compound that exhibits anti-microbial behavior. Yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, which help maintain gut health and may boost our immune system. 

Stay fit and rested

Though it can be tough to find time to hit the gym and stay relaxed during the stressful holiday season, Dr. Kazlauskaite advises physical fitness is one way to avoid getting sick. Additionally, stress management is important during the holidays, so make sure you’re managing your time wisely to allow for plenty of rest and sufficient sleep.

Dress warmly

It can be tempting to wear sparkly sandals to all of your holiday parties, but it’s important to dress in layers all winter to keep the head, neck, hands and feet warm to keep your immune system resilient. 

Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the spread of cold/flu germs. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Washing your hands thoroughly can help prevent the spread of cold/flu germs. | THINKSTOCK.COM

Personal hygiene

Though your mom probably taught you these tips growing up, it’s always worth a reminder to keep excellent personal hygiene to avoid falling ill.
  

1.   Wash your hands

2.   Avoid touching your face and spreading germs

3.   Do not smoke

4.   Keep household, kitchen and work surfaces clean 

5.   Use papers towels, and be sure to throw away tissues immediately after using. 

Haas shared her recipe for her Warm Chai-Spiced Pom Apple Cider, which is perfect for Chicagoans hoping to combat a cold this winter.

Warm Chai-Spiced Pom-Apple Cider
Serves 4
Portion: about 3/4 cup
About 40 calories per serving

INGREDIENTS

2 chai tea bags

2 cups boiling water

1 cup apple cider

¼ cup 100% pomegranate juice

1 orange, sliced

pomegranate arils, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

Steep tea in boiling water for 5 minutes. Pour tea and remaining ingredients into a slow cooker. Stir then cover with the lid. Set to low and heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.

Serve in a mug with pomegranate arils. Alternatively, proceed as above with steeping tea, but instead of using a slow cooker, place ingredients in a sauce pot and set over low heat to warm.

Sara Haas shares the recipe for her Chai Spiced Pom-Cider, which is also featured on her website, http://www.sarahaasrdn.com. | Photo courtesy of Sara Haas

Sara Haas shares the recipe for her Chai Spiced Pom-Cider, which is also featured on her website, http://www.sarahaasrdn.com. | Photo courtesy of Sara Haas